Movie Review: A Quiet Place.
A tense and atmospheric horror-thriller, A Quiet Place delivers across the board.
A Quiet Place is a rare treat; a movie that does everything well within a genre while also adding its own sentiments and sensibilities. This is especially difficult in the horror genre. Many horror films come along with a hook, trying to set themselves apart from the pack by having a unique element that says “yes, you’ve seen a monster movie before, but this one is different.” Most of these type of films wind up feeling like a gimmick. Director John Krasinski and his excellent cast take a common trope of the horror movie – the need to be quiet while the killer is around – and elevate it by taking the premise seriously and thoughtfully working out how you could possibly survive in a world where making the slightest noise is a death sentence.
A Quiet Place (2018).
Nearly a year after a mysterious new life form arrives on Earth, most of humanity has been wiped out by the deadly creatures. The hideous beings are big, fast, and extremely resilient and they hunt by sound. Even the slightest noise can bring them down upon you with lightning speed. In this desperate world, one family is trying to survive by arranging their life according to one principle: don’t make a sound.
Be Here Now.
One of the biggest joys of watching A Quiet Place is that you are drawn into the world of this drama so effectively. The film is intelligently constructed from a conceptual standpoint so that everything is consistent and follows the internal logic of the piece. You really only need to make one assumption – that these monsters can exist with the specified properties given – and then everything flows ingeniously from that premise. The film is written and directed with such attention to detail that it hangs together seamlessly as a whole.
The two biggest ways the film executes that vision is by excellent cinematography and sound design. Cinematographer Charlotte Christensen (Life, Fences) and Krasinski create a visually layered movie that is beautiful as a work of art and effective as a means of storytelling. With nearly no dialogue, the camera must do extra work to guide the viewer to what is important and meaningful in the story. This film succeeds admirably, only occasionally lingering too long on an object that obviously will become important later in the film.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
The sound work in A Quiet Place is breathtaking. I’m putting out there now, this sound work better be on the Academy’s list come next winter. Not only does the film weave together sound to create tension, it also deepens the realism of the piece. The sound team is playing by the same rules as the actors and director, relying on the ambient noise of the piece and creatively adding to it. In one scene John Krasinski and Emily Blunt dance, and we hear nothing until she puts an earbud into his ear and then the music washes over the audience. One character is deaf and when we are in seeing the world through her perspective the sound completely disappears. It’s similar to how Hush used sound, but more developed and consistent across all of the characters.
A great deal of the praise for this film is about how it nails the artistic elements. I want to take a second to say that the film delivers on a primal horror movie level by having a freaking cool monster. The creatures are a slick blend of monster tropes grafted together in a completely alien manner. Joints bend and flex in weird ways and their body plan is recognizable yet horrendous to behold. The CG for the creatures is solid and they always feel like they really inhabit any space they are in. They are fascinating in much the same way as Ridley Scott’s Xenomorphs from Alien. A Cloverfield-esque mythos that explores this universe and these creatures from other angles would be cool as hell.
Everything in its Quiet Place.
A Quiet Place is an excellent movie. It’s so good, it’s hard to write about it without sounding disingenuous. The acting is top notch: Krasinski and Blunt deliver great emotional range without dialogue and the young stars, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, are fantastic as well. The visuals and audio are completely on point. The setting is richly evoked, like the best bits of an M. Knight Shyamalan movie. The pace starts with a bang, builds tension for half an hour and then erupts into a 45 minute-long thrill ride.
The only sticking point I had with the film is that the monsters may be a bit too implausible, but for nearly any horror movie using a monster as antagonist you have to buy in or you might as well not watch. If you do buy in, the film is right there with you. Every little bit is thought through and cleverly designed to honor your commitment. A Quiet Place is a great experience in smart horror film making.